My Why - Jaimie Kalinowski, Second Grade General Education Teacher

October 24, 2023

Topic: My Why

You might think it strange that Jaimie Kalinowski keeps nuts and seeds in her car. But this nature lover feeds the squirrels, birds, chipmunks and whatever wildlife comes her way each day. She even greets squirrels in the Riley Elementary School parking lot prior to morning classes and many days after school to give them a treat. 

So it’s no surprise that Kalinowski uses that same nurturing side to grow and evolve her second grade students. She is a 23-year district veteran who has reflected on the highs and lows of her career. “Each year has brought different challenges and celebrations and I can honestly say that I believe last year was my best year of teaching,” she states. “I had a new teammate, right out of the Illinois State University internship program, who brought fresh ideas to implement. These experiences helped me become the teacher I am today,” she adds. 

But it hasn’t been a straight line for Kalinowski. She started her educational journey as a computer science major and soon changed to education. “After working with students during my summer breaks, I knew that I had a new path that I wanted to pursue,” she said. So, she continued her studies focused on education and earned her bachelor’s degree in education and her master’s degree in curriculum & instruction, both through Illinois State University. “I started my career helping build the extended school year program for grades 3-5 at Hawthorne Elementary School from the ground up and to this day, many of my decisions are based on what I learned during that first year of teaching,” she adds. 

And she continues to learn and grow… just like her students. In fact, there is one special student who was struggling with behavioral issues. Kalinowksi saw the student crying one day and knew she had to help so she asked for that student to be assigned to her classroom. Through the school year, she was able to listen and gain the student’s trust and teach the child to be more respectful and control their emotions. Even though the student has moved on to another grade, Kalinowski still communicates with the student’s parents and the child, who is doing well, visits her almost daily. 

Outside of school, this nature-lover enjoys the outdoors, including going on long walks and taking photos of wildlife. And you can bet that the animals she comes in contact with will be well cared for… just like her students.